The press format at Junior Eurovision 2019 has been most informal that I have ever witnessed. Post-rehearsal press conferences were out the window. Interview rooms did not exist. Instead it was a free-for-all with interviews happening here there and everywhere, plus speed-dating style sessions at the Opening Ceremony and just before the Jury Final for quick fire questions.
And quick fire as the approach I took. I asked each artist one question and one question only.
“If you could have chosen any song in the entire world to perform at Junior Eurovision, what song would you have chosen?”
This article feeds off our articles about songs in Junior Eurovision from before the Contest. Firstly we released our piece about how adults often misjudge songs competing in Junior Eurovision. Secondly we asked ESC Insight team members and fellow journalists about their Eurovision tastes as a child, and if they changed.
This article completes the trifecta. Rather than worrying about our tastes, let us think about what tastes the kids performing actually have. Has Junior Eurovision, and the music on show, been relevant to the tastes of our competitors.
Below I present our survey results. Note that we have if an artist did not name a particular song, or reason to explain their choice, that has been left blank.
Isea Çili (Albania)
‘Idontwannabeyouanymore’ by Billie Eilish…
Because that shows emotion and it shows my feelings. I like emotional songs.
Jordan Anthony (Australia)
‘This Is Me’ by the cast of ‘The Greatest Showman’…
Loved the message of the song, it’s so powerful and I think it would be a great song.
Lisa Misnikova (Belarus)
‘Pepelny (Ashen)’ by Liza Misnikov…
This is my song and this is a part of my life. If I sing this song, all will be super.
‘Halo’ by Beyoncé…
She has an amazing voice and she’s my idol. Because she dance, sing and they are my two favourites.
Giorgi Rostiashvili (Georgia)
Anna Kearney (Ireland)
It’s her whole package. Makes me so happy when she sings. I just love her voice and how she performs.
Marta Viola (Italy)
‘Spirit’ by Beyoncé
Yerzhan Maxim (Kazakhstan)
‘Adagio’, Made famous in modern music by Lara Fabian and Il Divo, amongst others
Eliana Gomez Blanco (Malta)
‘Rhythm Inside’ by Loïc Nottet…
So since the first time I heard it I fell in love and his voice is incredibly, his personality is amazing and I just love it. It would be very nice to perform it, it is such a cool song.
Mila Moskov (North Macedonia)
‘I Was Here’ by Beyoncé…
Beyonce for me because she is the image of a pop star. She inspires all of us in the music industry she is strong and very inspirational. We all love her, she is the queen.
Viki Gabor (Poland)
‘I Have Nothing’ by Whitney Houston…
It’s an amazing song and I think it would do amazingly well
Joana Almeida (Portugal)
‘Vem Comigo (Come With Me)’ by Joana Almeida…
Because it is about saving the planet and I really love it and the nature.
Darija Vračević (Serbia)
Because she is so powerful.
Melani Garcia (Spain)
‘Nessum Dorma’, from the opera ‘Turandot’…
Because I love opera. Because it’s the first song of opera I sang well when I was ten years old. It’s my first moment of opera. I love that song.
Matheu (The Netherlands)
‘Lost In Japan’ by Shawn Mendes…
Because the melody is nice. I also like the uptempo.
Sophia Ivanko (Ukraine)
‘The Spirit Of Music’ by Sophia Ivanko…
I like my song because I’m songwriter. I wrote the lyrics and the piano part.
Erin Mai (Wales)
‘Anfonaf Angel’ by Bryn Terfel (and others)…
It’s a Welsh song, very meaningful, very emotional. It’s all about how sending an angel about how loving and caring it is.
The Beyoncé Effect
There are few artists globally today who can carry the lantern as a role model as well as Beyoncé. Not only does she have a wide repertoire of global hits, the fact that are bundled together with one of the most dynamic and powerful performers only adds to her overall package. Combined her artistry with her philanthropy, including huge donations for education and healthcare in developing countries, Beyoncé offers few reasons not to like her.
The artists I interviewed used words such as ‘powerful’, ‘strong’ and ‘inspirational’. These young artists have plenty of growing to do, but Beyoncé is an aspirational image that they want to achieve and emulate.
The Widespread English Language
Junior Eurovision has a rule where the song has to at least partially be sung in a national language of your country. Only two of the artists in this list mentioned a song that was not in the English language. We note that Erin Mai was selected from S4C, a dedicated Welsh language broadcaster, which is more likely to find young artists who would also want to promote the uniqueness of the language. ‘Nessun Dorma‘ is an unsurprising choice too, with few popular operatic songs in English, but note here that the song isn’t in Spanish either.
To me the overwhelming results are evidence that growing numbers of acts are comfortable with English, and that the language rule in itself may be a hindrance rather than a blessing for them. Populations move across the world so much more in this century, Viki Gabor for example grew up in England as a child, after being born in Germany. Surely a mor e child-respectful rule would be one for the student to perform in their native language, rather than that decreed by a broadcaster.
At any rate the level of English at Junior Eurovision feels far higher than it was ten years ago, with the majority of artists able to hold an interview in English without any help. This may be because learning English is increasingly popular across school curricula from East to West. For example in Russia learning a foreign language at school is now part of the school curriculum, and English is the most popular choice for schools to offer. Watch below how 9-year-old Tatyana Mezhentseva helps to interpret for her duet partner.
Yes, It’s Pop Music, But…
The list features many hit songs and contemporary artists. Unsurprisingly the pop stars of the future want to emulate the pop stars of the present. The list of songs doesn’t include what many of us would consider to be children’s music. Eliana’s choice of ‘Rhythm Inside‘ is cool and hip. It’s not Pollapönk.
What is notable is even within that is a diversity of tempos and moods, with some going for the sentimental and emotional tracks while others picking the uptempo floor fillers.
There’s also plenty of other choices being made. It’s little surprise that Melani Garcia chose opera, or Erin Mai chose Welsh, but all the musical styles they have chosen adds diversity naturally. The artists have picked songs they are comfortable with and what they would like to perform. It’s no surprise that it’s pop-dominated, but it’s less surprise that actually young people also show an independence to choose what they want.
On that note let me take you to the conversation I had with Sophia Ivanko representing Ukraine. Sophia was not accepting any possibility that she would want to sing any other song on the Junior Eurovision stage. In a rarity for the modern Junior Eurovision, ‘The Spirit Of Music’ is her song and her passion. I gave her the option of any song in the entire world. She didn’t twist. Having her song mean something to her meant so much more. Liza Misnikova didn’t switch either, and is also a credited songwriter for ‘Pepelny (Ashen)‘, and Joana Almeida has highlighted how her message is important to her after Portuguese forest fires in 2017.
The Voice As A National Final?
Quite a few of this year’s perfomers have came to Junior Eurovision after appearing on editions of either The Voice or The Voice Kids. These shows have brought many young people to a national TV audience, and thus the jump to Junior Eurovision is comparatively smaller.
I count Jordan Anthony, Carla, Melani Garcia, Yerzhan Maksim, Viki Gabor and Karina Ignatyan as alumni from this specific brand.
I note that Jordan, Melani and Yerzhan all chose performances not just from appearing on those shows, but specifically from the finals of their specific competitions. Psychologically it appears that the success these young artists had was due to that springboard, so those performances are really ingrained in them as their pinnacle.
In conclusion I see a group of Junior Eurovision artists who all want to go on that stage and show off themselves at their very best. If Junior Eurovision more matched their styles the show would undoubtedly be a great spectacle. It would be still be musically diverse, but a touch more contemporary than what is on offer in Junior Eurovision. It would be more English language, but not exclusively so.
The one thing we may lose are the songs with a deep message. I doubt there would have been multiple climate change/save the planet songs on show. Are young Junior Eurovision performers looking more to tell a story of personal growth on stage, whereas us adults are looking for them more to be the voice of all young people today? I will leave that question with you.